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Thunderbolts Reading Order

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Following the events of 1996’s Onslaught, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were declared dead. A new group of ‘superheroes’ decided to step in to help protect the world: The Thunderbolts!

Considered the equivalent of DC’s Suicide Squad, The Thunderbolts was created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley and they made their first appearance in The Incredible Hulk #449 (January 1997) before the launch of their ongoing series the following month.

What seemed to be a basic superhero team then changed on the last page, when it was revealed that The Thunderbolts, led by Baron Zemo, were actually the Masters of Evil in disguise! This is known as one of the most famous twists in Marvel history.

With themes of redemption and heroism, The Thunderbolts will walk away from their evil nature, choosing to reject Baron Zemo and try to become heroes in their own right. Throughout the years, this team of anti-heroes has worked to do good things when led by Hawkeye, Luke Cage, and the Winter Soldier, but has also been used as a dangerous and malevolent force by leaders like Norman Osborn and Wilson Fisk. As you can imagine, between changes in leadership and direction, the roster of the team has changed a lot over the years.

A new version of Thunderbolts will soon be on the big screen, as a movie featuring the team will be released in 2024. Before that, you can start reading The Thunderbolts, and exploring their past (and present) history with this reading order!

Thunderbolts Comics Reading Order

Thunderbolts Omnibus Collection

Before taking a more detailed look, just know that Marvel is collecting Thunderbolts in an Omnibus format, offering a good and simple way to explore the series:

  • Thunderbolts Omnibus Volume 1
    Collects Thunderbolts (1997) #0, 1-33, Thunderbolts Annual 1997, Thunderbolts: Distant Rumblings (1997) # -1, Incredible Hulk (1968) #449, Spider-Man Team-Up (1995) #7, Heroes For Hire (1997) #7, Captain America & Citizen V Annual 1998, Avengers (1998) #12, and the Thunderbolts story from Tales of the Marvel Universe (1997) #1
  • Thunderbolts Omnibus Volume 2
    Collects Thunderbolts (1997) #34-63, Thunderbolts Annual 2000, Avengers (1998) #31-34, Avengers Annual 2000, Thunderbolts: Life Sentences (2001) # 1, Thunderbolts: From the Marvel Vault (2011) # 1, Citizen V and the V-Battalion (2001) #1-3, Citizen V and the V-Battalion: The Everlasting (2002) #1-4
  • Thunderbolts Omnibus Vol. 3
    Collects Thunderbolts (1997) #64-75 And #100-109, Avengers/Thunderbolts #1-6, New Thunderbolts #1-18 And Thunderbolts Presents: Zemo — Born Better #1-4
  • Thunderbolts: Uncaged Omnibus
    Collects Thunderbolts #144-174, Enter the Heroic Age #1 (E Story), Dark Avengers #175-190.
  • Thunderbolts Red Omnibus
    Collects Thunderbolts (2012) #1-32 And Thunderbolts Annual (2013) #1

The Thunderbolts Classic

Justice…like lightning! The Avengers and Fantastic Four are no more (or are they? Check out Heroes Reborn!), and The Thunderbolts appear to protect the Marvel Universe! Citizen V, Meteorite, Songbird, Atlas, Techno, and Mach-1 are the new “superheroes”, led by Baron Zemo! Discover their first stories by creators Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley!


First, Marvel just started to collect Thunderbolts in the Epic Collection:

The same stories were previously made available in the following Thunderbolts Classic collection:

  • Thunderbolts: Marvel’s Most Wanted
    Collects the first appearances of the six original members from Captain America vol. 1 #168, The Incredible Hulk vol. 1 #228-229, Marvel Two-in-One #56, Strange Tales #123 and 141–143, Avengers vol. 1 #21-22
  • Thunderbolts Classic Volume 1
    Collects Thunderbolts #1-5, Thunderbolts: Distant Rumblings #-1, Thunderbolts ’97 Annual, The Incredible Hulk #449, Tales of the Marvel Universe one-shot, and Spider-Man Team-Up #7. Also collected in Thunderbolts: Justice Like Lightning… (which collects Thunderbolts #1-4, Thunderbolts ’97 Annual, The Incredible Hulk #449, Tales of the Marvel Universe special, and Spider-Man Team-Up #7)
  • Thunderbolts Classic Volume 2
    Collects Thunderbolts #6-14, and Heroes for Hire #7
  • Thunderbolts Classic Volume 3
    Collects Thunderbolts #15-22, 0, and Captain America & Citizen V Annual ’98; Avengers Vol. 3 #12

When ex-villains are determined to do good, who’s better than another reformed criminal to lead them? It’s time for the Avenging Archer Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, to take leadership of the team.

Kurt Busiek’s run came to an end with issue #33. He was replaced by Fabian Nicieza.

Thunderbolts #51-75 were not collected in trade paperbacks but are now available in the Omnibuses.

  • Thunderbolts (1997) #51-52 are also collected in Heroes Reborn: The Return Omnibus. 
  • With #51, Patrick Zircher replaced Mark Bagley as the main penciler (with John Buscema as penciller), a place he occupied until #67.
  • After #51, you can read Citizen V and the V-Battalion #1-3, collected in Thunderbolts Omnibus Volume 2
  • The One-Shot Thunderbolts: Life Sentences takes place between #52 & #53
  • After #60, you can read Citizen V and the V-Battalion: Everlasting #1-4, also collected in Thunderbolts Omnibus Volume 2

The “Fightbolts” era

Despite the popularity of the title, The Thunderbolts was relaunched, with John Arcudi at the helm and with a totally new cast of characters. It’s Fight Club Marvel-style and it was a failure. The title was canceled after six issues.


Before the official relaunch, the Thunderbolts made a short comeback. Taking place one year after the events of #75 and before Avengers (1998) #77, this crossover miniseries written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza sees Baron Zemo and the original Thunderbolts facing off against The Avengers. But are they foes or friends?

The New Thunderbolts

We enter Brian Michael Bendis’ era on The Avengers, a period made of changes, relaunches, and events. In the wake of Avengers Disassembled and the most famous team in ruins, The Thunderbolts have reformed again with Mach-IV (previously known as MACH-X), Songbird, Atlas, Blizzard, and Photon (Genis-Vell). They are soon joined by Joystick, Speed Demon, Radioactive Man, and later by Nighthawk.

Relaunched by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza, does this new team have the backbone to support the hopes and dreams of an entire city? 

Civil War Daredevil Reading OrderWe’ve got a Civil War on our hands! One of the most famous Marvel crossover events of the 2000s. After a catastrophe, the U.S. Government proposed the Superhuman Registration Act. Heroes had to choose between rallying behind either Iron Man’s pro-registration forces or Captain America’s opposition. During that conflict, the Thunderbolts hunt down supervillains and recruit them to the Pro-Registration cause, while Zemo (who rejoined the group in #100) uses the situation to fight the Grandmaster.

Norman Osborn, the new Director of the Thunderbolts!

Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato lead the group in a new direction! In the aftermath of the Civil War event, Norman Osborn takes over as director of the Thunderbolts and changes the concept of the team. The group, consisting of Moonstone, Bullseye, Penance, Radioactive Man, Songbird, Swordsman, and Venom, track down unregistered superhumans hiding among us!

This is The Secret Invasion! The shape-shifting alien race known as the Skrulls has secretly infiltrated every super-powered organization on Earth with one goal – full-scale invasion! The Thunderbolts play a noticeable role in this event, with the conclusion leading to a new status go! For the full experience, go to the Secret Invasion Reading Order

  • Secret Invasion
    Collects Secret Invasion #1-8
  • Thunderbolts: Secret Invasion
    Collects Thunderbolts: Breaking Point one-shot, Thunderbolts: International Incident one-shot, Thunderbolts: Reason in Madness, and Thunderbolts #122-125

The Dark Reign era

In the aftermath of Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign begins (see this article for more information about that specific era). He takes over S.H.I.E.L.D., disbands the Thunderbolts, and assembles a terrifying team in his own image! This is Dark Avengers. The initial line-up consists of former Thunderbolts members and new recruits, including the Sentry, Ares, Noh-Varr (now Captain Marvel) as well as disguised super-villains Moonstone (portraying Ms. Marvel), Venom (Mac Gargan portraying Spider-Man), Bullseye (portraying Hawkeye) and Wolverine’s son Daken taking on the Wolverine mantle.

In private, Osborn rebuilds the Thunderbolts to use the group as his personal hit squad. He assembles Black Widow (Yelena Belova), Ghost, Paladin, Headsman, Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady), Grizzly, Mister X, and Scourge.

Thunderbolts in the Heroic Age (aka Luke Cage’s Thunderbolts)

It’s a new era for the Thunderbolts! The most dangerous people on Earth are now all in one hellish prison, and the only way out is through rehabilitation and contribution to society via The Thunderbolts…under the leadership of the steel-hard-skinned Avenger named Luke Cage! But can Power Man restore the Thunderbolts to their rightful potential?

Luke Cage’s core team consists of Songbird, MACH-V, Moonstone, Fixer, Juggernaut, Man-Thing, Crossbones, Ghost, later joined by Satana.

With the Thunderbolts lost in time, a new group steps in to replace them: the Dark Avengers! The title was renamed to reflect this reality, with the same numbering and still Luke Cage as a leader.

The Marvel Now Era: Thunderbolt Ross’s Thunderbolts

As part of the Marvel NOW! initiative, a new team is assembled: Agent Venom, Elektra, Deadpool, and the Punisher are chosen by General “Thunderbolt” Ross, the Red Hulk to be part of his group ready to make the world a better place…by any and all means necessary! This team shares many members with the Code Red Team (see Hulk: Hulk vs X-Force).

Those stories are now collected in the Thunderbolts Red Omnibus, but here is the previous TPB collection:

All-New, All-Different Thunderbolts – Winter Soldier’s Thunderbolts

Spinning out from the pages of Avengers: Standoff, a renegade team is rampaging across the Marvel Universe: the new Thunderbolts! The team (consisting of Moonstone, Kobik, Fixer, Mach-X, and Atlas) has been reassembled under the direction of the Winter Soldier for a short run.

At this point, the team is disbanded and the story continues in Secret Empire.

Thunderbolts in Marvel Fresh Start

This is Marvel Fresh Start, but did the Thunderbolts get also a Fresh Start? Not so much, as a new incarnation is introduced following Baron Zemo and Mayor Fisk’s plan to get rid of Frank Castle once and for all. The team is mostly composed of Thunderbolt veterans, with the addition of newcomer Jigsaw. And it didn’t last.

Venom by Donny Cates Reading Order IconWhen Knull’s army of space dragons arrives to attack Earth, Mayor Wilson Fisk has a plan: Bring back the Thunderbolts! Fisk assembles a group of killers and mercenaries — including Taskmaster, Rhino, Star, Mr. Fear, and Batroc the Leaper! They have just one job: save the city or die trying. For more info, see our King in Black Reading Order.

Daredevil Reading OrderWilson Fisk has risen from Kingpin of Crime to mayor of the biggest city in America. Now, he outlaws superhero vigilantism in New York City and makes the Thunderbolts the only sanctioned heroes of the city. He also creates the Thunderbolt Units to help them handle any superhero threats. For the full experience, check out our Devil’s Reign reading order.

Hawkeye’s Thunderbolts

It’s finally time for a real Fresh Start for the Thunderbolts! Now that Luke Cage is the mayor of New York, he can’t reinstate vigilante, but he can help redeem the Thunderbolts’ name. With the help of PR specialist Helen Astrantia, a new line-up was created to launch a new era for the group. Led by Hawkeye, the team consists of America Chavez, Persuasion, Gutsen Glory, Power Man, and Spectrum.

The Revolution’s Thunderbolts

After the Captain America: Cold War storyline, Bucky Barnes became the Outer Circle’s New “Revolution.” As such, he inherited a treasure trove of valuable intel. Using that, he formed a new Thunderbolts team to pursue high-profile targets like the Red Skull, Kingpin, and even Doctor Doom himself! 

This version of the Thunderbolts formed by Revolution with the help of the mysterious Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine includes the Black Widow, the White Widow, and Shang-Chi.

Last Updated on June 19, 2024.


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